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Second ferocious Nor'easter in a week pounds U.S. East Coast

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 2:57 PM GMT on February 10, 2010

A ferocious blizzard likely to be even more intense that last weekend's crippling Mid-Atlantic "Snowmageddon" snowstorm is rapidly intensifying off the Northeast U.S. coast, just south of New York City today. Blizzard conditions with heavy snow, high winds, and near zero visibility have hit or are expected to hit portions of West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Washington D.C., Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and New York, including the cities of New York, Newark, Wilmington, Atlantic City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. The storm responsible tracked across the center of the country yesterday, leaving a wide swath of snow amounts of 4 - 16" across Texas, Tennessee, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Missouri, Minnesota, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, Alabama, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. The storm is now centered over Lake Erie, with a new 989 mb low pressure center developing off the coast of Delaware. This new low is predicted to "bomb" into a mighty Nor'easter with a central pressure below 970 mb, the kind of pressure typically found in a Category 1 hurricane. This will bring strong winds, gusting over 40 mph, to a large portion of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast U.S. today, causing a larger region of blizzard conditions with blowing and drifting snow than was experienced during last weekend's "Snowmageddon" Nor'easter. Fortunately, today's Nor'easter will be far enough from the coast during its peak intensity that coastal flooding from storm surges will not be a concern. In addition, today's blizzard has a lower moisture content than "Snowmageddon", and the snowfall totals will not be as great. The storm has also wrapped in some warmer air from the south, resulting in a change-over to freezing rain and sleet near the coast this morning, which will limit accumulations. Nevertheless, most of the Mid-Atlantic that received two feet of snow from "Snowmageddon" last weekend will receive another foot of snow today, and there is a significant risk of roof collapses from the weight of all this snow.

Figure 1. The Nor'easter of February, 11, 2010 in a visible satellite image taken at 9:01 am EST. Image credit: NASA GOES project.

Snowiest winter on record for Baltimore, Wilmington, and Dulles
The snow from this latest blizzard have pushed snow totals for the 2009 - 2010 winter season to a new record for Baltimore, Wilmington, and Dulles Airport, and will likely set a new seasonal snowfall record in Philadelphia, Atlantic City, and Washington National Airport later today. As of midnight last night, here are the snowfall numbers so far for the 2009 - 2010 winter, and the records they have broken:

Baltimore, MD, 64.4". Old record: 62.5", winter of 1995 - 1996.
Washington Dulles Airport, VA, 65.7". Old record: 61.9", winter of 1995 - 1996.
Wilmington, DE, 59.5". Old record: 55.9", winter of 1995 - 1996.

Cities close to breaking their seasonal snowfall record:

Philadelphia, PA, 62.3". Current record: 65.5", winter of 1995 - 1996.
Washington D.C. National Airport, 48.8". Current record: 54.4", winter of 1898 - 1899.
Atlantic City, NJ, 45.5". Current record: 46.9", winter of 1966 - 1967.

All this comes with the end of winter still more than a month away. The latest runs of the GFS and ECMWF models show yet another Nor'easter hitting the D.C./Baltimore/Philadelphia region next Monday. However, next Monday's storm is likely to be much weaker than the last two Nor'easters, with perhaps 4 - 8 inches of snow falling. It is too early to be confident of this prediction, and a Mid-Atlantic snowstorm may not materialize at all on Monday--or the storm could grow stronger than currently forecast, with more than a foot of snow falling.

Heavy snow events--a contradiction to global warming theory?
As I discussed in my previous post, record-breaking snowstorms are not an indication that global warming is not occurring. In fact, we can expect there may be more heavy snowstorms in regions where it is cold enough to snow, due to the extra moisture global warming has added to the atmosphere--an extra 4% since 1970. Snow is not the same as cold, and we have to look at global temperatures, not snowfall, to evaluate whether global warming is occurring. Heavy snow can act to bring down global temperatures, as occurred in December 2009, when the Northern Hemisphere experienced its second greatest snow extent on record (only 1985 saw greater December snow cover since reliable snow records began in 1967). Global average land temperatures, as a result, were just 31st warmest on record, even though global ocean temperatures were the 2nd warmest on record. It will be interesting to see what global temperatures did in January, when the statistics are released next week. The global temperature of the lower atmosphere as measured by satellites was the warmest on record in January, and by a considerable margin. I'll discuss this finding in more detail once the blizzard is over. It's also of interest to note that December temperatures in the U.S. were the 18th coldest in the historical record, but January temperatures were 0.3°F above average, according to the National Climatic Data Center. As a whole, it's been a colder than average winter in the U.S., but not greatly so. However, December snow cover was the greatest on record in the contiguous U.S., and January's ranked sixth. Snow cover records go back 44 years, to 1967.

Portlight continues relief efforts in Haiti
Portlight.org disaster-relief continues to be more effective than some of the traditional large aid agencies in getting much-needed crutches, walkers, and other medical supplies to disabled victims of the Haitian earthquake. So, please visit the Portlight.org blog to learn more and to donate. Floodman's blog has the latest info on Portlight's plan for Haitian relief. A few highlights from his blog:

The latest shipment arrived at Quisqueya University in Port-au-Prince on Friday morning; the shipment was unloaded and a portion of the supplies distributed to the St Nicholas Hospital in Sainte-Marc north of Port-au-Prince. This shipment included wheelchairs, crutches and canes in addition to clinical supplies. It was a busy day at Quisqueya; Susan Eitel, representative of USAID met with Richard this morning and Dr. Amy Nguyen of ACTS World Relief took delivery of DME at the Quisqueya campus.

We have several additional shipments queued up for transport, one of which shipped on Saturday; these shipments include the remainder of the donation from H&H Wholesalers. We are hoping to have another shipment out in the next few days.

We are concentrating on distribution for the next few days as storage is currently at a premium at Quisqueya; we are also concentrating on expanding our storage capabilities to allow for larger shipments to be handled, allowing us to help a larger segment of the disabled community.

Figure 2. The Portlight Relief Team unloads crutches shipped from Portlight's warehouse in Atlanta to a staging area at University Quisqeya, Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The relief team consists of ten Haitians being coordinated by Haitian-American Richard Lumarque, Portlight's on-site coordinator in Haiti. The relief team has been working full-time over the past week doing aid work.

Next post
I'll have a new post on Thursday.

Jeff Masters
No School!!
No School!!
Woohoo, another day of "No School". The kids will be crying about it in the Summer when they have to make up the Snow Days, lol.
Whiteout, Feb. 10
Whiteout, Feb. 10
We have whiteout conditions in the Annandale area of Fairfax County. The wind is picking up at a fast pace. We are now under a blizzard warning.
Brabus Cave
Brabus Cave
Little car in a big storm

Winter Weather

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.